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Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

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Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
Presented by
Theme music composer
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series6
No. of episodes146
Production locationBBC Television Centre[1]
Running time150–180 minutes
Original release
NetworkBBC One
Release2 October 1976 (1976-10-02) –
27 March 1982 (1982-03-27)

Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, more commonly known simply as Swap Shop, is a British children's television series that aired on BBC1 from 2 October 1976 to 27 March 1982. It was groundbreaking in many ways: by broadcasting on Saturday mornings, being live, being three hours in length, and using the phone-in format extensively for the first time on TV.

The show rivalled the growing success of rival broadcaster ITV's Tiswas, though the latter was initially only broadcast in the ATV region in the Midlands and, at the time of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop's inception, had yet to be taken up by other ITV franchises around the country.


The show was hosted by Noel Edmonds with Keith Chegwin, John Craven and, from 1978, Maggie Philbin.

Also featured was Posh Paws, a stuffed toy dinosaur. Edmonds once explained that his name was actually spelt "Pohs Paws", because that is Swap Shop backwards.

Another person named was "Eric" (Ilett), the often-referred-to but never-seen technician whose job was to lower a plastic globe containing postcards sent in by viewers as answers to competitions.

The content of the programme included music, visits from public figures, competitions, and cartoons. There was also coverage of news and issues relevant to children, presented by John Craven, building on his profile as the presenter of John Craven's Newsround. [citation needed] Craven had a stuffed toy lamb as an inpromptu sidekick, known simply as "Lamb".[2]

The cornerstone, however, was the "Swaporama" element, hosted by Chegwin, who was very rarely in the studio. An outside broadcast unit would travel to different locations throughout the UK where children could swap their belongings with others. This proved to be one of the most popular aspects of the show, often achieving gatherings of more than 2,000 children.[citation needed]

Generally, the primary purpose of the BBC OB unit was to broadcast a sporting event at that Swaporama venue later that day. This allowed Swap Shop to use the same unit and save programming costs which would otherwise be prohibitive.[citation needed]

Edmonds, Chegwin and Philbin briefly formed a pop group called Brown Sauce in December 1981 and released a single called "I Wanna be a Winner". The song peaked at number 15 in the UK Singles Chart and stayed in the Top 40 for a total of nine weeks.[3]

Telephone number[edit]

The telephone number for the show from the second series onward was 01 811 8055.[4][5] The first series had a different number, 01 288 8055, before being changed to the number retained throughout the rest of the show's run, and retained for its successor, Saturday Superstore.[6]

The number was well known and remembered by children[7] and was groundbreaking for the BBC, who previously had received viewer feedback mainly by letter.[8]


Swap Shop was a success, attracting substantial ratings not only among its target audience of children, but also students and parents. It ended in 1982, to allow the presenters to move on to other projects, notably Edmonds, who became one of the highest-profile TV presenters in the UK. It was followed by a sequence of similar programmes over the years, including Saturday Superstore, Going Live! and Live & Kicking.

This first ever question for the live audience was, 'Where will the next Olympic games be held (1980)?'. Moscow was the answer.

Spin-off programmes were created to widen the appeal of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop:

  • On Boxing Day 1976, Swap of the Pops was broadcast on BBC1, featuring pre-recorded performances by pop acts of the era, linked by Noel Edmonds.
  • The first Swap Shop Star Awards were shown in March 1978, in which special awards ('Erics') were given to sportspeople, actors and other celebrities, as voted for by viewers of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. The programme returned for subsequent editions in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982.
  • A live outside broadcast, Noel Edmonds presents Multi-Coloured Swap Shop's Rock Garden Party, was shown in May 1978 with Edmonds presenting numerous musical acts performing at the Jubilee Gardens on London's South Bank.
  • The Multi Coloured Music Show was shown on BBC1 on 26 May 1979, a programme similar to Swap of the Pops where Edmonds introduced some of the most popular music from the previous series of Swap Shop.

Swap Shop is poorly represented in the BBC archive. For some time it was believed that either the programmes were never routinely recorded in the first place, or they had been wiped on the orders of the BBC's Archive Selector Adam Lee in 1993. The truth, as related by ex-Blue Peter editor Richard Marson on the archive television forum The Mausoleum Club in 2006, is that almost every edition of Swap Shop was recorded in full every week onto two 90-minute Quad tapes. These tapes were held by the BBC until the late 1980s, at which time the Deputy Head of Children's Television, Roy Thompson, allowed many of them to be wiped and sold to Australia as recycled stock. Although Quad tape was considered obsolete in the UK, Australia was still using it extensively at that time, and as the Swap Shop tapes had no physical splices in them, they were considered ideal for reuse.[9]

As a consequence of this action, many of the clips used in the retrospective It Started With Swap Shop and as extras on some DVD releases of other BBC shows had to be taken from domestic video recordings that had survived in private hands. Amongst the editions wiped were those featuring appearances by Blondie, XTC, Trumpton creator Gordon Murray, and numerous cast and crew members of Doctor Who.

Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin and John Craven reunited in 1999 for a parody of Swap Shop transmitted at the end of the last ever episode of Noel's House Party. In the skit, Edmonds – playing his "younger self" – wakes up in the Swap Shop studio after supposedly dozing off, and explains to the others that he has just had a horrible dream of him being "trapped in a big house for 8 years", and recounting the events of a typical Noel's House Party episode, and then the three discover that Mr Blobby is also in the studio.

On 20 December 2007, the BBC announced that Swap Shop was returning to BBC Two for a 13-week run.[10] Barney Harwood presented the new show with Basil Brush. The revived show was titled Basil's Swap Shop and lasted for three series.

Noel Edmonds presents Multi-Coloured Swap Shop's Rock Garden Party[edit]

Noel Edmonds presents Multi-Coloured Swap Shop's Rock Garden Party was broadcast live on BBC1 at 5pm on Monday 29 May 1978, Spring Bank Holiday Monday in the UK. The title of the programme, as listed on BBC Genome, is different to that which appeared in the programme's opening titles - Multi-Coloured Swap Shop Presents Noel Edmonds Rock Garden Party.

Readers of the Radio Times were informed that there would be entertainment at 'a garden in Central London', however the location remained a mystery prior to broadcast. The open-air concert, presented by Edmonds, was in fact the Jubilee Gardens on London's South Bank, near to the modern-day site of the London Eye.

Performing on stage (though not singing live) were Showaddywaddy, Darts, The Goodies and Patti Boulaye. In between each of the performed songs, young members of the audience were invited on stage to play party games in order to win prizes.

It Started With Swap Shop[edit]

A special programme celebrating the 30th anniversary of BBC children's Saturday morning shows was recorded in December 2006. The show, called It Started With Swap Shop, was made by Noel Edmonds' Unique TV company. Highlights of the programme saw the original presenting team reunited, other presenters from its successor shows Saturday Superstore, Going Live! and Live & Kicking make an appearance and celebrity fans came along to 'make a swap'.[11]

The 130-minute programme was recorded in front of a studio audience at BBC Television Centre on 15 December 2006 and was broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 28 December 2006 at 9.00pm with a shortened repeat (110 minutes) on Sunday 31 December 2006 at 6.10pm, again on BBC Two. The shortened version of the programme was broadcast on BBC Four on 28 May 2007 at 7.00pm as part of the channel's Children's Television on Trial season.


Swap Shop was so popular that during its run four annuals were published.[12]

The publishing dates for the books were as follows:

  • Book 1 – November 1978
  • Book 2 – September 1979
  • Book 3 – September 1980
  • Book 4 – November 1981

The annuals are full of quizzes, funny stories, pop group pictures, knitting patterns plus features on the shows stars.

Each book has presenter photos in which the hosts are seen separately as a comedy character. A memorable example of this is Book 4 which features Noel Edmonds, then in his 30s, as traditional English schoolboy Harry Copter. The character of Harry Copter is referenced throughout the annual, following a humorous split screen interview by Noel on the programme. The fictional character's name is a pun on the host's love of helicopters. This comedic picture of Noel has now made Book 4 extremely collectable.


Series Start date End date Episodes
1 2 October 1976[13] 26 February 1977[14] 21
2 8 October 1977[15] 25 March 1978[16] 24
3 30 September 1978[17] 24 March 1979[18] 26
4 29 September 1979[19] 22 March 1980[20] 26
5 27 September 1980[21] 28 March 1981[22] 27
6 3 October 1981[23] 27 March 1982[24] 25

Out of the 146 episodes that were made in total, 41 survive. These are episode 21 of series 1, episodes 4, 5 and 21 of series 2, episode 24 of series 3, episodes 1, 2, 7, 12, 15, 17, 21 and 25 of series 4, episodes 1, 2, 12, 14 to 18, 21, 23, 25 and 27 of series 5 and episodes 1, 3, 5 to 7, 11, 13, 15 to 17, 19 to 22, 24 and 25 of series 6.[25]

Due to industrial action by the ABS union at the BBC over Thursday 21 and Friday 22 December 1978, the edition which should have aired on Saturday 23 December 1978 was not transmitted. The reason being that the strike was only settled between the union and the BBC at 10.00pm on Friday 22 December 1978, and it was impossible for the live Swap Shop to be up and running in time for the 9.30am start the following morning. Instead BBC One returned to the air after being blacked out for two full days, at 3.00pm on Saturday 23 December 1978. Swap Shop finally returned on Saturday 30 December 1978.


  1. ^ "BBC TV Centre". Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  2. ^ "BBC - Cult - Classic TV - Swap Shop".
  3. ^ British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). Guinness World Records Limited. 2006. p. 82. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ "Calling Up Swap Shop". Saturday Mornings – A celebration of BBC Saturday Morning television since 1976. Archived from the original on 6 November 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Give Us A Call On..." Saturday Mornings. Archived from the original on 6 November 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  6. ^ "118: Who you gonna call?". BBC News. 10 December 2002. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  7. ^ Fischer, Bob (2009). Wiffle Lever to Full!. Hachette UK. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-848-94329-2.
  8. ^ Stone, Jem. "Interacting with listeners at BBC Audio & Music". BBC. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Junked BBC Childrens [sic] Shows". The Mausoleum Club Forum. 2006. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Basil Brush brings back Swap Shop". BBC News. 20 December 2007.
  11. ^ "It Started With... Swap Shop". Saturday Mornings.
  12. ^ "Archive – Books". Saturday Mornings. Archived from the original on 16 January 2007.
  13. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 2 October 1976". BBC Genome Project. 2 October 1976. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 26 February 1977". BBC Genome Project. 26 February 1977. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 8 October 1977". BBC Genome Project. 8 October 1977. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 23 March 1978". BBC Genome Project. 25 March 1978. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 30 September 1978". BBC Genome Project. 30 September 1978. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 24 March 1979". BBC Genome Project. 24 March 1979. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 29 September 1979". BBC Genome Project. 29 September 1979. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  20. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 22 March 1980". BBC Genome Project. 22 March 1980. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  21. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 27 September 1980". BBC Genome Project. 27 September 1980. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – BBC One London – 28 March 1981". BBC Genome Project. 28 March 1981. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  23. ^ "Swap Shop – BBC One London – 3 October 1981". BBC Genome Project. 3 October 1981. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  24. ^ "Swap Shop – BBC One London – 27 March 1982". BBC Genome Project. 27 March 1982. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  25. ^ "TVBrain – Kaleidoscope – Lost shows – TV Archive – TV History". Lostshows.com. Retrieved 7 June 2018.

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